It?s raining fish, frogs, and cows. Hallelujah!

Keith Brumley


It rained frogs this summer in Hungary. It also rained fish on two consecutive days in the Australian desert town of Lajamanu. It seems to me that if it can rain frogs and fishes, it can rain just about anything else8212;including cows.

This apparently happened in California in 1869 and again in Kentucky in 18768212;but they were not, thankfully all in one piece. They were in fact, tiny pieces of flesh from unidentified animals and from all reports, indeed fell from the sky. Everybody just figured they were cows. It was, I suppose, as good a guess as any.

So, some of you out there are saying, “yeah, and this guy has a bridge for sale in Brooklyn.” I can imagine hearing people say “I don’t believe it!”

This is why I like facts. They often come together to produce what moral philosopher William G. Frankfurt calls “small truths’. If it weren’t for the many small truths of physics and engineering, that bridge in Brooklyn would have never been8212;and no, it’s not for sale. Nevertheless, the bridge exists and it’s true that millions of people have driven, ridden or walked across it.

Now . . . I like to keep things simple. It’s hence important we consider how our understanding of all the little facts making up all the small truths affects our judgment. I have a friend who in good humor suggested that wearing my WWII Italian-style pith-helmet is “wrong’ because the headgear was issued to troops on the losing side of a just war. If it was brand new, however, or if I’d not told him of its alleged origin, I wouldn’t have had to put up with his teasing (which in truth I don’t mind). This aside, the fact is that it protects my bald dome from the sun and is literally much cooler than other summer headwear. The true utility of my sunhat outweighs any and all political and/or fashion implications. It’ll also protect my noggin in the unlikely event of a frog-storm.

The pith helmet has no provenance. I bought it because I liked it. It didn’t cost much. Its value as a “real” Italian WWII artifact is unimportant. It works. Its origins are a matter of conjecture. Whether it’s a fashion and/or political faux pas . . . let’s not go there, huh?

And so it is also with raining frogs and fish. It’s real8212;just as real as the Brooklyn Bridge and the pith helmet. Sometimes, it even rains what appears to be blood. This is not opinion but recorded, documented, and verified fact. In earlier days, these phenomena were understood as omens portending calamity. They were also perceived as warnings. (Repent, you sinners!)

Conjecture now has it that all manner of things can be swept tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere by tornadoes or water spouts. They’re then deposited hundreds8212;maybe thousands8212;of miles elsewhere. Also, self-styled skeptic Brian Dunning alleges that no one has actually witnessed the raining creatures. Dunning’s explanation is that the fish walked there. The former opinions are now understood as superstition and the latter opinions are now accepted as truth.

It is nevertheless a fact that strange things have been reported to have fallen from the sky since the beginning of recorded history . . . and the truth remains that nobody knows how or why it happens. This truth8212;like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Italian-style pith helmet8212;is not only useful but, in a very important way, beautiful. The architects of the Brooklyn Bridge harnessed technology well beyond their time. Who knows8212;or cares8212;about the provenance of my pith helmet? As for raining fish, frogs, and cows, it’s a mystery, reinforcing the theory that anything can happen to anyone at anytime.

I, for one, am glad of both the wonder and the mystery. I wouldn’t be at all shocked or frightened if it one day it rained Monsanto and SD Regent board members.

Keith Brumley is an SDSU alumnus and current journalism graduate student at SDSU. Contact Keith at [email protected]